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July 27, 1979 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-07-27

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Page 8-Friday, July 27, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Devo outsmarts itself wit 'Duty'

By R. J. SMITH
PART ONE
"No doubt, just as watchmakers usually
provide a particularly good movement with a
similarly valuable case, so it may happen with
jokes that the best achievements in the way of
jokes are used as an envelope for thoughts of
the greatest importance ...
"From the point of view of throwing
theoretical light on the nature of jokes, in-
nocent jokes are bound to be of more value to
us than tendentious ones, and trivial jokes of
more value than profound ones. "
-Sigmund Freud, Jokes and
Their Relation to the
Unconscious.
"Thev (Iaurel and Hardy) did exactly
what other silent comedians had a/ways done,
and when they finished repeating other
comedians they repeated themselves: ther
threw pies, stepped on tacks, slipped on
banana peels, went to the dentist, backed out
of parking places to crash into other
cars ... Substantive/y, ther invented almost
nothing.
"Instead, they did something almost as
venturesome, perhaps even more daring. Like
two little children caught with their hands in
the cookie jar, they confessed. They con-
fessed to the joke. It was, they sheepish/v and

rather winsome/v admitted, the same old
Joke. Hardv might pluck embarrasedly at the
folds of voluninotis nightgown as he
looked demure/y into the camera to say so.
But, they went on toask, who's kidding who?
Everyone knows all the jokes by this time,
has seen them a hundred thousand times.
How could we possibly foot anyone into
thinking them new?"
-Walter Kerr, The Silent Clowns.
PART TWO
Taken from the files of Odilon Redon,
M.D., 9/27/78. Re: abridged vocal tran-
scripts of accounts by one Domingo
Samudio of a series of recurring
night-time hallucinations Samudio says
he suffered through last fall. The sub-
ject took the name "Sam The Sham", and at
one time was the leader of a mid-sixties
rock group called "Sam the Sham and
The Pharaohs."
SAMUDIO: The last one happened
just last night-I was talking to my old
buddy Spud about getting The
Pharaohs back together, sitting in the
backyard and drinking tequila. I must
have passed out back there, and while I
was asleep the horrible dream came
back. In the dream there I was, lying
down on this big ol' operating table,
only around this one was just table after

table of weird operating equipment that
looked like ice picks and buzz saws and
vibrators, and who knows what! When I
looked up I saw there was some win-
dows cut through high up on the walls of
the operating room, and lookin' through
were just all kinds of creatures with
bug-eyes and dripping faces - I don't
know if they was wearing masks, but I
sure hope so.
All of a sudden a bell rings, right?,
and these guys came in, I guess they
was going to be the ones operating on
me. But it was strange: there was no
nurses, just these six guys head-to-toe
in yellow rubber suits, all of 'em with 3-
D glasses on. Well, just then the lights
went dim and this weird music came
on, grunting and wheezing and singing
stuff about "jocko homo" and asking
"are we not men?" and stuff. They
made me fill out one of these forms -
Don't worry about what it means,
potato-head, everyone must sign," one
of 'em said. Then I felt all these wet
things rub across my face, and
everything smelled like burning rub-
beV. Soft damp things started poking
into me from all around '- and then I
heard one of them weird instruments
start whirring and cutting the wind just
above my head! ((Samudio appears
shaken-breathing deeply )5. These
guys started to cut into me, with
scissors and trowels and stuff, and the
leader of the group leaned over and
said, "Relax, dung-man. We shall just
remove a thing or two, and just jiggle
your chromosomes up a bit. You'll be a
better person for it - a credit to your
race."
Well ... that's the last thing that
ever happens in these
dreams... ((Samudio breaks down into
tears) . . .
PART THREE
This is what I truly believe: when
Sam the Sham and The Pharahs were
serving up hits over the metaphorical
left-field fence of Top-Of-The-Pops
charts in the mid-sixties, they were as
good a group as there was. The Sham-
sters had a special something that
quickly earned them top respect among
even the most twisted groups of young
American kids that were then plugging
un by the kitty litter box and oil stains
from Dad's car, forming, during what
Lenny Kaye calls "the first psychedelic
era (1965-1968)," a tidal wave of
"garage bands."
What the Shamsters had was smarts.
Before he pulled his butt out of the fire
once and for all with The Bells, I had
once imagined using "Too Smart To
Rock and Roll" as a headline for a
review of any of the stuff Lou Reed
typically churned out after the Velvets
broke up. Really, it is the perfect
positive statement on the career of Sam
the Sham and The Pharaohs (also, not
coincidentally, it is a perfect title for
DEVO's new album Duty Now For The
Future. Like most of post-Velvets and
pre-"Bells" Reed, and unlike all of The

Pharaohs, it is a bad smart. More on
DEVO later).
THE SHAMSTERS were the Village
People of their era: In the wake of the
Beatles and all those other wide-eyed
kids, from the homeland who made up
"the first British invasion,; record
company schmucks and producer types
latched onto many of the bands in the
Southwest and tried to quick-clone
Yankee duplicates of the Fab Four. But
unlike the Village People, who remain
both joyfully oblivious to and willfully
accepting of their virtual corporate en-
slavement, the Pharaohs looked at the
direction in which they were headed
(copping the Beatles' sound - an im-
possible mission) and bravely decided
just to throw up their arms, and turn
their entire career into one monumen-
tal joke. Sam wore goofy turbans and
robes onstage and danced the spastic
sham": the band propagated its
image through numerous appearances
on TV and with a string of songs too ab-
surd to be straight rock and roll, but too
weird and unassuming to be labeled
"novelty records."
After listening to the Shamster's
lunacy, it's impossible to think that the
people who made the records were as
ridiculously dumb as their music. Con-
sider their greatest triumph, "Wooly
Bully," with its drunkenly wandering
beat, shrill vocals, and, above all else,
the audaciously dopey guitar break.
This is not the music of some smart-
alecks who look down on everybody in
the rock world. Rather, it is the sound of
a bunch of people who know they can't
be too serious in their put-down of that
world because they recognize that they
are part of it, and realize they are no
better.
UNFORTUNATELY, on Duty Now
For The Future DEVO sounds precisely
as if it is mounting the same pillar that
Zappa, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Nick
Lowe sometimes do. To the group's
credit, I guess, it sounds just dully
weird and quirky more often than it
seems to fall into the realm of hip
Warholier-than-thou pop detachment
that so many new-wave smarty pants
enjoy: but so what?
- The eternal problem is how to be a
True Rock Star when you're really
some kid out of art school, say, or some
teenager who has overdosed on free
verse. At first, DEVO's boys seemed to
know the answer. Most everything on
Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are DEVO.
neatly obliterated any doubt that smart
boys can rock as well aslany high school
drop-out. Hell, Are We Not Men? is
See A TOUCH, Page 9

n

LADIES and GENTLEMEN FR
the sI
ROLLING STONES 1

I

Ingmar Bergman's 1957
WILD STRAWBERRIES
A bitter aging academic (played by VICTOR SJOSTROM-a famous silent
film director in his own rigt about to receive yet another honorary degree,
wonders after on early ma mina niohtmare about the meaning of his life.
His withered mother represents his probable future, the young lovers he
encounters, hope for renewal. Bergman at his most tenderly Chekhovion.
In Swedish (with subtitles).
Short: ANNARBOR FILMMAKERS-A film by Kevin Smith
Sat: Woody Allen in TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
CINEM A G UON HTAT OLDACH.U1

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